10, 15 ½, 32, 47, 0, and 354 are all numbers I live by. They mean different things but all have their value. They represent my neck size when I buy a new shirt, miles per hour I’ll go over the limit on the interstate, minutes in a class period that I teach, seconds needed to heat up a tortilla in the microwave when I’m cooking, and the security code on the back of my credit card. I’ll let you decide which one is which (and no, I didn’t give you the real security code).
This year I’ve been keeping an eye on my finances using one singular number – the account balance in my First National Free Checking account. Having a singular number has helped simplify my finances and help me more responsibly handle the ups and downs of a checking account.
What is the number?
My number is unique to me and my family – 4,000 to be exact. It’s a baseline number that I check at the end of every month and make decisions and adjustments accordingly. So, when the 30th or 31st rolls around, I check my online bank account on FNBO.com or use the app to quickly check what the account balance is. A checking account will ebb and flow so much during a month that I’ve found it easier to check our family’s income and spending at the same time and use the same measuring stick.
How my number helps me
This past month was a weird one for my bank account. My home and auto insurance company did a 180 and backed out of covering clients in my state. I had already paid premiums for the year, so I had just spent over $2,500. I had new premiums to pay for a new company, while refunds from the old company were still in processing. Had my checking account balance been a complete mystery to me, I would have had a queasy stomach, and some awkward perspiration from the anxiety.
In addition to having a number that provides cushion for months like this, it’s helpful that my First National Free Checking account offers Overdraft Forgiveness on one overdraft or return item fee every 12 months. It’s a feature that I definitely like having, and definitely don’t like using .
Tips for using the number
A single number can give you some peace of mind and a consistent measurement of success or failure in your money world. From my experience, I’d recommend doing these things to make the process successful.
- Keep an emergency fund separate. My 4,000 is not my emergency fund. The number has its limitations for my family. It won’t sustain a month where the engine of my car, the immune system of my child and the water heater are in cahoots to break down at the same time. It’s common advice to have an emergency fund that could last a few months of expenses.
- Automate, automate, automate. Anything that is consistent on a monthly basis like bills, I automate. Anything that I want to make consistent on a monthly basis like saving and giving to charity, I automate. I’m allowed free transfers from my First National Free Checking account to my savings account, so the savings piece works out pretty easily for me. If I’m able to automate most transactions, I can judge my success each month in regard to variable expenses (food, entertainment, gifts, etc.) against the number. If I end up at 4,200, that was a pretty good month. If I end up at 3,500, I’m prompted to take a closer look at what happened.
- Be aware, but don’t obsess. It’s impossible to know and stay ahead of all expenses and ebbs and flows of a checking account. Minor ups and downs should be expected, not fretted over. Your number should be a number that is appropriate for the amount of money that comes in and out of your checking account and gives you good peace of mind at the same time. If you find your number consistently slipping, maybe tracking expenses using a budgeting software could help. If you find your number growing, beefing up the savings plan would be wise.
What about you – do you have a number? You do not have to share the actual number, but please do share how you handle the mini-roller coaster ride of a checking account balance!
This post was brought to you by our friends at First National Bank. All opinions expressed are our own.